Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. (2 Cor. 5:17-20 NIV)
Sometimes it’s better to tell a story than to preach, at least Jesus seemed to think so.
Our story today begins in the 1940s, where a 16-year-old girl named Gladys is daydreaming about getting out of her parent’s house for good. She’s the oldest of six children, so much of the meal preparation, childcare, and housecleaning fell upon her shoulders as her mom and dad both worked. They had a lot of mouths to feed and everyone had to do what they could to make ends meet. Gladys understood that but it was a lot of work and she wanted out.
So when Alfred, who was nearly 30 and seemingly wise in the ways of the world, began to pursue her despite her parents’ objections, it wasn’t long until she gave herself to him and became pregnant. So Gladys got what she wanted as Alfred had to marry her and she escaped from her father’s household.
Fast-forward a decade or so and we find Gladys daydreaming once again. Alfred left early for work as he always did; Gladys got the children off to school like she always did; now she is waiting for the mailman to come around, as he was the highlight of her day and the object of her daydreams. He was young and handsome, well-formed and friendly, always ready with a compliment or a suggestive comment. He stroked Gladys’ ego and gave her the attention that Alfred hadn’t for years – the result is easy to guess.
Fast-forward another decade or two. Gladys is sitting on a bar stool, daydreaming and thinking about what might have been. Her marriage was over – the mailman was the first of many affairs – and now she was in bondage to the bottle and looking for love in the arms of the many different men who passed through the local pub. She thought that she would be free but she was just as trapped as when she was in her parent’s house or married to Alfred.
Gladys would probably still be there today but for a church-going religious man she worked with named Clarence. Clarence and his wife had always been friendly towards her and had tried to get her to go to church with them but she always refused. Then, when tragedy struck and Clarence lost his wife in a car accident, Clarence reached out to Gladys in a different way. Soon they were married, and Clarence did his best to straighten Gladys out and Gladys did her best to comfort Clarence.
It worked for them for awhile. But as hard as she tried, she couldn’t heal the hole in Clarence’s heart. And as hard as he tried, he couldn’t straighten Gladys out. Despite the church meetings and his good advice, she just kept going back to the bottle (and sometimes to other men, but Clarence didn’t know that). So Clarence and Gladys grew further and further apart; his heart ached for his first wife and Gladys felt trapped once again.
They lived that way for many, many years, even decades. Together, but not happy. Trying to please the other, failing, becoming bitter towards one another, trying again, failing, the pattern just kept repeating despite their best efforts. They stayed together anyway, and they grew old together, bickering and fighting every step of the way. It got so bad that no one wanted to be around them, not even their kids or grandchildren.
Then one day they were at the senior center celebrating all the birthdays in the month of May at one time. The guy who was in charge of the party, his name was John, led them in singing “Happy Birthday.” Afterwards, he began to tell everyone that while it was his birthday that month as well, he was actually more happy about his spiritual birthday. He explained how he had always gone to church and tried to do the right thing but it was only recently that he understood that he could be born again in Christ: He had placed his faith in Jesus and become born again as a new creation in Christ Jesus! The old was gone, the new had come! He was a changed man! He had a second chance at life, a second life to live!
John went on to explain that he no longer had to try harder to live right and please God and other people because he knew that God loved him and had died for him on the cross, making it as if he had never sinned. He was born again, a new creation who loved God and served Him, so it didn’t matter what the world thought or what the circumstances of life brought – he was loved by God and had joy and peace that he had never experienced before.
"The presence of God washed over them, cleansing them of their guilt and bitterness, giving them joy like a fountain and peace like a river. Gladys finally felt free; she no longer felt trapped."
Alfred and Gladys were skeptical at first, after all they had been going to church for decades but had never heard about being born again or becoming new creations. But as they talked about it afterwards, they figured, “What do we have to lose? We’ve spent decades trying to do it ourselves, why not give it a try? Besides, this is the first thing we have agreed upon in years. It must be God!”
So they talked to John, and he helped them to pray and place their faith in Jesus. John told them they might not feel God’s love at first, that it might take awhile for the reality to hit them, but in their case it was immediate. The presence of God washed over them, cleansing them of their guilt and bitterness, giving them joy like a fountain and peace like a river. Gladys finally felt free; she no longer felt trapped. Alfred felt true love for the first time; he no longer mourned for his first wife. They stayed there talking to John for hours, rejoicing in God’s love, forgiving each other for all the hurts of the past, and making plans for their new life in Christ.
God did help them to love and forgive one another and He even brought healing to their relationships with their kids and their families. On Gladys’ 80th birthday over a hundred of her descendants and relatives came together to celebrate. She got up and testified to the love of God and how being born again had changed her life and brought healing to her relationships. She laughed and cried at the same time as she related that not many people would have been there if she hadn’t given her life to Christ – she was so hard to get along with that no one would have wanted to come!
After she sat down, someone else stood up and asked if anyone else wanted to put their faith in Christ and be born again, and many raised their hand to do so. God only knows the number of lives that were touched by Gladys giving her life to Jesus in her latter years. Which goes to show us all, that it is never too late to be born again, to have a second chance at life, to have a new life in Christ Jesus.
And, for us who have already been born again and know Jesus, it is never too late to be the ambassadors of Christ that we are supposed to be. It’s not too late to tell others that they need to put their faith in Jesus and be born again. It’s not too late for your loved one, your neighbor, and your co-worker to become new creations who have a second chance, a new life in Christ, and have the love, joy, and peace that marks those who have been born again to follow Jesus. Remember, it’s not just the clergy who are called to be ambassadors for Christ – all of us who believe in Christ are to be His ambassadors and offer His words of life to those around us.
So let’s thank the Lord together for new life in Him, and as we think about how to do Biblical church, let’s commit ourselves to offering new life in Christ as we preach, teach, and converse with people from all walks of life. Everyone needs Jesus; we all need to be born again. People need words of life rather than exhortations to try harder or worldly wisdom on how to do better. Let’s offer new life, not just good advice.
Let’s Pray Together: Lord, I put my faith in You. I thank You for dying on the cross for me and cleansing me of my sin, guilt, and shame. Fill me with Your love, Your joy, and Your peace. Help me to be an ambassador for You, taking Your message of reconciliation to others, telling them that they too can be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ and be born again as new creations. They can be born again! They can have a second chance at life! They can be changed; they can be new creations who have a brand new life in Christ Jesus! Help me, Lord, to tell them in a way that they can understand and receive it. I pray for those that come to my mind even now as I pray...(continue praying as you feel led…)
Related Resources As we focus on being new creations in Christ, we recognize that as new creations with a new life in Christ we need a new life-giving environment in which to live. We need to be a part of a church community that is alive and vibrant and filled with the presence of Jesus. Author Frank Viola tells us more about this kind of church experience: “Organic church life is a grassroots experience that is marked by face-to-face community, every member functioning, open-participatory meetings, nonhierarchical leadership, and the centrality and supremacy of Jesus Christ as the functional leader and head of the group. Put another way, organic church life is the ‘experience’ of the Body of Christ.” (From Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices by Frank Viola and George Barna. This is a very informative book on church traditions and why we do many of the things we do in many churches on Sunday mornings. It is an excellent book and well worth the purchase price.)